SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 28 May 2022, Saturday |

Borrell: Russia Not Invited to Syria Brussels Conference Because of Aggression on Ukraine

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview that the European Union holds onto its three “red lines” which involve not contributing to Syria’s reconstruction, not removing sanctions and not re-establishing full diplomatic ties with Damascus “until a genuine and comprehensive political transition is firmly under way in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

 

“The EU policy positions have not changed since the behavior of the Assad regime is not changing,” said Borrell, adding that the EU continues to help Syrians inside and outside the country. “Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the European Union and its Member States have been the largest donors of humanitarian and resilience assistance to Syria and the region with € 27.4 billion.”

 

Borrell spoke on the eve of the two-day donor conference that is set to be held in Brussels on Monday.

 

“This conference is traditionally the main pledging event of the year for the Syrian people. What is different this year is that it takes place on the backdrop of an unprecedented military aggression directly in EU’s neighborhood. But we want to show to Syrian people that despite the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we remain committed to continue supporting also the Syrian people and host communities in neighboring countries, and we are not forgetting them,” he said.

 

Borrell confirmed that Russia was not invited to the conference.

 

“We are inviting those partners who have a genuine interest to contribute to peace in the world and to help victims of conflict. Through its aggression on Ukraine, Russia has proven that it is not sharing this interest,” he said.

 

Here is the full text of the interview carried out on Saturday.

 

1- What do you expect of the donor conference in Brussels on May 9 and 10? How does this one differ from the previous ones?

 

This conference is traditionally the main pledging event of the year for the Syrian people. What is different this year is that it takes place on the backdrop of an unprecedented military aggression directly in EU’s neighborhood. But we want to show to Syrian people that despite the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we remain committed to continue supporting also the Syrian people and host communities in neighboring countries, and we are not forgetting them. With the Brussels Conference this year, we want to ensure sustained international attention and support for them.

 

We have hosted the Brussels Conference since 2017. The objectives are to reassert the international community’s commitment towards Syrians and towards a negotiated political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, to continue mobilizing much needed financial support to meet the needs of Syrian refugees and their host communities in neighboring countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue with civil society.

 

2- Why did you not invite the Russian government to the Brussels conference?

 

As host of the Conference, we are inviting those partners who have a genuine interest to contribute to peace in the world and to help victims of conflict. Through its aggression on Ukraine, Russia has proven that it is not sharing this interest.

 

3- The conference comes after the European Union renewed economic sanctions against Damascus. Does it have any effect on Brussels conference?

 

These are two different things, they are not linked and are not in contradiction. The Conference aims to raise funds for the Syrian people – mainly the refugees and internally displaced. The sanctions target the regime for its continued violent repression against the civilian population. Our sanctions are a clear signal that the repressive policies of the Assad regime against the civilian population of Syria, including the expropriation of land for political purposes, as well as the use of chemical weapons, are considered unacceptable by the European Union. They are also sending a message to the supporters of the Syrian regime that their support to the regime would come at a cost.

 

EU sanctions are not targeted against the Syrian people, do not prohibit the export of food, medicines or medical equipment and a number of exceptions are foreseen for humanitarian purposes. This shows that we care for Syrian people and the Brussels Conference is only reinforcing this commitment to help them in any way we can.

 

4- The EU after last meeting in Brussels, have said that they are committed to the three No’s: no to contribution to the reconstruction, to lifting of the sanctions, no formulations [“normalization”?] without success of the political process in Syria. Are these conditions still valid?

 

The EU policy positions have not changed since the behavior of the Assad regime is not changing. The EU will not re-establish full diplomatic relations with Syria, we will not start working on reconstruction until a genuine and comprehensive political transition is firmly under way in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

 

As long as there is no progress in the implementation of the relevant UN resolutions for Syria, the European Union will maintain its sanctions regime as an additional means of pressure on the Syrian regime to change its behavior.

 

At the same time, we will continue our large-scale humanitarian work in Syria and the region, in support of the Syrian people, wherever they reside as well as their host communities in neighboring countries. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the European Union and its Member States have been the largest donors of humanitarian and resilience assistance to Syria and the region with € 27.4 billion.

 

5- Moscow and Damascus are asking to put money in “early recovery” projects. What’s the EU position on this?

 

We do not work with the regime inside Syria, in line with our position on no relations with the Syrian regime and no reconstruction until a genuine and comprehensive political transition is firmly under way in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

 

However, the European Union is supporting the Syrian people directly suffering from the conflict, to build their future. We are actively fostering local initiatives in Syria where EU parameters and red lines are respected. We are supporting and empowering civilians across the country, working on education, health, livelihoods, building social cohesion, demining. These activities implemented at grassroots level aim at addressing the current needs of the population while also preparing the ground for Syria’s future for all Syrians.

 

We are also supporting the restauration of a dialogue and social cohesion among Syrians inside Syria and the region after eleven years of conflict. Supporting the development of a strong civil society with a specific emphasis on Syrian women and youth is essential in this regard. This is also the reason why the Brussels Conferences put a strong emphasis on the dialogue with civil society. Together with the Syrian people, they are the actor of change for the future of Syria.

 

6- What is your position on the efforts of the UN Envoy to Syria Mr. Pedersen on Constitutional reforms and on his “step-for-step” proposal?

 

The European Union fully supports the efforts of UN Special Envoy Pedersen to make progress on all elements of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including the work of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva and the Special Envoy’s “steps-for-steps” approach. We discussed this and other related issues at Ministerial level at the meeting of EU Foreign Affairs minister in January, which was also attended by UNSE Pedersen.

    Source:
  • Asharq Al-Awsat